Speaking for Themselves

Thomas Peele

In their work on student success, Patrick Terenzini and Ernest Pascarella demonstrate the importance of student/faculty interaction. Increased student/faculty contact has a positive impact on students in many areas, including G.P.A., retention, and proficiency. As I report in "Working Together: Student Faculty Interaction and the Stretch Program," students who participated in Boise State University's Stretch program experienced successes similar to those reported by Terenzini and Pascarella (Peele). In 2005,  Boise State University faculty piloted a Stretch program in order to improve the basic writers' educational experience. Our Stretch program, modeled on the program at Arizona State University described by Greg Glau, links English 90: Basic Writing, with English 101: Introduction to College Writing and Research (Glau). These two courses are taken consecutively: ENGL 90 (the basic writing course) offers no academic credit and ENGL 101 (the second semester course) carries 3 credits. Students are encouraged, though not required, to continue to work with the same students and the same instructor over the course of the full year. Though many students are not able to complete this sequence, those who are able to experience significant benefits in the areas that I note above. While the Rhetoric and Composition faculty continue to be frustrated by the university's refusal to grant credit for basic writing courses, we are nevertheless able to provide significant additional support to students as we work toward changing the status of these courses.

In this essay, I present the interviews I conducted with students during the first phase of our pilot program, which consisted of three sections of basic writing. Approximately forty-five students from these three sections continued into English 101 with the same instructor. I interviewed eleven of these forty-five students, all of whom reported very positive experiences with the Stretch program. In the interviews, students' comments pooled around 5 major themes: transition to college life, slow pace, connection to other students, connection to faculty, and online learning. The interviews suggest that not only does the increased student/faculty contact improve students' performances, but that there are also several other benefits of having students working together for two semesters rather than one. In the following sections, students describe their experiences in the Stretch program. Based, in part, on students' comments, the faculty expanded the Stretch program to include all sections of basic writing. In our relatively small program, the Stretch model of basic writing is a low-cost approach to providing additional support to basic writing students.